Archive for the ‘animals’ Category
(Reposting this old piece so I can more easily find it. One line tweaked to make it generic.)
I found a fragrant pebble;
When I smelt it, out he came.
He turns quite green with envy
If left out in the rain.
I could trade him in for silver
Or beat him 'til he's thin;
Reduce him to a third
if I boiled him in a tin;
But cruelty's corrosive
So I treat him as a friend,
In hopes that I'll be hearing
A purr there at the end.
I may or may not be working my way through Wikipedia's list of Black Dogs in popular culture. Regardless, I read this book recently.
The Kettle Chronicles: the Black Dog by I. S. Morgan has a hideous cover, which it proceeds to defy by not only not sucking, but also being quite a charming little book.
This is a historical story (I hesitate to call it a novel, it's so short) set around a spooky event in the Suffolk town of Bungay in 1577, popularised at the time by Abraham Flemyng's pamphlet entitled "A Straunge and Terrible Wunder". (This pamphlet is real. I own a modern copy.)
Flemyng, let's be clear, was a churchman with a Christian axe to grind. Though he was not present in Bungay on the Sunday in question, when loud thunder accompanied the deaths of two of the congregation, nevertheless he wasted no time in reporting the attendance of a diabolical black dog and dressing the whole thing up as an expression of God's wrath. Of course. This sort of thing always happens in out-of-the-way places that Flemyng's London-based target readership have probably never visited.
However, the pamphlet also makes its way back to Bungay itself and is duly read out with great relish by pub landlords all over town, and soon half the congregation is claiming that they did remember seeing a black dog…
The book follows Captain Richard Brightwell as he investigates the affair on the orders of the area's bishop. The book itself was supposedly compiled with the aid of notes made by Captain Brightwell's attendant scribe, John Kettle (the titular Kettle Chroniclist, and another character based on a real historical figure). Also present are a manservant, Humphrey, whom one could reasonably accuse of slyness – all in a good cause, of course – and a gentle seven-foot-tall mute monk named Augustyn, sent along to act as bodyguard and general human shield.
The Kettle Chronicles: The Black Dog is a short book with a lot packed into it. The writing style is eccentric and works rather well, I think, but Your Mileage May Vary. The historical references are both slyly applied and explained by endnotes (the automatic numbering of which seemed to have undergone some form of MS Word fail in my edition).
Of course the central mystery is concerned with the supposed Black Dog, whom the locals know from legend as a "shilly-shally" named Black Shuck, and who is usually more likely to accost people on lonely roads and give them a scare than to burst into churches and wring the necks of two town feoffees.
The storyline takes in both mundane and supernatural events. The tale, including its frequent humour, is focused on the human characters' interactions with the denizens of the town.
There is a romantic subplot. This manages to be portrayed slyly and not boring, and does not dominate proceedings. It's not really necessary either, other than a bit of human interest.
A short, obscure book, but one that definitely belongs in my tiny collection of Black Dog and ghost dog literature.
In which (three short updates) we see a little glimpse of Young Suitov's values. Wait, he has what now?
Suitov was currently standing at the top of the steps, in the early morning light, raking the gravel of the driveway. This was accomplished without touching it physically. When one is fifteen and a new mage, one tends to do things the flashy, inefficient way for the sake of it.
One Dog Night continues. (I really need to find a better name. They've been together for, what, a couple of days now, and the story's continuing for at least another couple.)
N.B. There is an overlap of a sentence at the end of some posts. That's just to do with where I break off writing. Will be fixed in a final edit.
I sent my father some advice on introducing a dog to new cats with no bloodshed. This is actually quite straightforward to accomplish, and you can get the general gist from my abstract:
The cat's unshakeable belief in its own inherent superiority, and ability to convince the dog of the same in the face of overwhelming evidence, is one of the reasons it is such a successful parasitic lifeform. The cat seeks to displace the dog's benign mutualism for its own ends without the host's knowledge.
I recommend Hillaire Belloc's exhaustive treatment, a classic for anyone interested in the subject. Meanwhile, in the realm of speculative fiction, many of the terrifying parasitic alien lifeforms in Neal Asher's novels are rather reminiscent of the cat or its passenger-cum-co-conspirator, Toxoplasma gondii.
The prize for the answer is braggin' rights. Nowt else.
My mistress bids me wait in durance stern.
With ignorance she blocks my path to joy;
Unjust delays are wrought at every turn,
My every plea set back by falsehoods coy;
Or else she seems to wilt, or then relent,
Yet in the granting, buck my earnest wish
With pale commital, watered-down assent –
A day-old tin of bleak and joyless fish.
Such cheapest chicken wafted at my face
That any cat would balk to call a meal!
There's gravy when I wanted jellied plaice
Or tuna when I becked for curried veal!
That witch! that crone! a wight with no remorse!
I shan't be coming back for second course!
What colour is the cat who writes this complaint, AND WHY? No marks will be given for an incorrect reason. (Hint: You don't need any foreknowledge of my household to work this out.)
Comments will be screened for a couple of days to let everyone guess.
Another blogger has reviewed The Barking Ghost [warning: complete spoilers], a Goosebumps book that I picked up a while ago from a used book stall.
It's the shortest and lamest member of my Black Dogs book collection. I'm currently trying to muster the energy to start The Kettle Chronicles: The Black Dog again; it's historical fiction about the Bungay Black Shuck incident, which ought to be epically fabulous, but it's written somewhat densely and the story is mostly about some human characters for whom I have little interest, so I only got partway through.
*skims the rest of the Wikipedia article* WAIT WHAT Shuckie is mentioned in Northern Lights? One of my favourite books of all time mentions one of my favourite historical persons of all time and I somehow have not NOTICED THIS?
Oh, since you're here, have some Black Dogs in popular culture.
Three new shortish updates since last post. I'm going for little and often so I don't lose the momentum.
In this update:
- The perennial disorganisation of genius!
- Find out what Mistake considers important enough to swear on!
- And, lots of lovely murder!
"And don't try telling me she's suddenly discovered her maternal side, 'cause she hasn't got one."
Cat miaow music video – surely the only one in existence that doesn't suck.
We went to an RSPCA talk at the Eighth Day last night.
Beforehand was a vegan buffet, all included in the £10 ticket price, and it was completely amazing. There were quiches and dips and things you'd expect in veg*n nosh, all very nice, and also some awesome tofu-nut wrappy things. Some non-vegetarians there remarked that they wouldn't mind eating like this every night, and I have to agree. There was lots of nummy fresh fruit and, horror of horrors, the ACTUAL MOST DELICIOUS BROWNIES EVER, which also happened to be vegan, as well as thick, chocolatey, nutty and all gooey in the middle. Just to torment me, these aren't included on the Eighth Day recipes page.
The talk was cool too. The emphasis was on information rather than stories of outrage (not that I particuarly mind stories of outrage; such things are happening to my brethren, cats, rabbits and miscellaneous, and everyone should know about it).
Facts I heard last night:
- The RSPCA was formed before the police. William Wilberforce was one of the founders. Police officers who sneer at RSPCA inspectors for not being 'proper' inspectors are barking up the wrong history.
- The maximum prison sentence for even the most disturbing animal abuse is six months. What with the law not doing what it says it will, this can in practice mean buggerall. People can be banned from keeping animals for life, but you aren't checked against any kind of record when you buy a pet.
- In case you think the RSPCA is too court-happy, only 1% of the calls to its national helpline results in prosecution. What's really interesting is that 98% of prosecutions brought by the RSPCA result in successful convictions. In comparison to the CPS, which quotes 80.7% (the inspector claimed a lower figure last night, which might have been for a different category of cases, can't remember), that's pretty freaking amazing, and brought about through honest, meticulous effort in by presenting their cases.
- The RSPCA can't do anything about stray dogs. That's the legal responsibility of local councils, who will still put a dog to sleep after 7 days if he or she is sick or injured.
- Unless an animal has been abandoned for a specified period, the RSPCA can't take him/her – or it's theft. (Taking and neutering someone's pet would be criminal damage!) This leads inspectors to farcical dances like putting tape over keyholes and cards in hinges to prove the owner hasn't returned, and feeding animals through letterboxes for a couple of days before they can be rescued.
- When it comes to proscutions the RSPCA takes the same line as mental health employees are advised to take when assaulted by their patients. Even though the offenders are often vulnerable people, the RSPCA will prosecute anyway, because it needs to be on record that this person is dangerous – and in cases of animal abuse, without necessarily apportioning blame, they absolutely should be prevented from keeping animals.
- A funny-horrific local story is going to hit the headlines later this month (subject to court proceedings). I'm not sure how much I should say, but it'll be notable for some oddities about the offender, as well as the sheer number of animals involved.
I didn't realise the RSPCA has an international section, and definitely didn't realise that each local division is a completely separate, individual charity, acting rather like a 'franchise' of the national charity. They work with the inspectorate (who are the national bit) but don't receive any funding from them (they have to raise it themselves), and have quite a bit of autonomy around the core RSPCA rules.
Which prompts me to include the local RSPCA in my payroll giving, now I know that's a separate thing from the national org…
My mother's come away with the idea of fostering pregnant queens, which is worrying. I took her there for the greater glory of DOGS WITH WHITE HAIRS ON THEIR MUZZLES, not PULSATING KITTY MOTHERSHIPS INCUBATING TINY KITTY-CLONES. Puppies I can appreciate; red panda cubs likewise melt my stony heart; newborn kittens are disgusting mewling wet things that might as well be human for all the appeal they hold for any right-thinking person.
Now here's a random video I found about recyclable cloth gift-wrapping. Like anything vaguely origami-ish, I find it both fascinating and completely incomprehensible. I just watched it happen, but how does it work?
Frerene was the only woman in the world.
I'd written half a post, sat on it for getting on for a week, and finally decided I should post it rather than waiting for the rest to occur. I still don't know where I'm going to finish this.
"Do you know any… tricks? Besides sitting up and offering a paw?"
"Yeah, loads," said Mistake. "Well, some. Well, one. Well… look, I'm a really fast learner when I want to be, right?"
From someone on Yammer, source unknown:
[Freeman Dyson] took his tortoise on the train many years ago. Back then they had 'dog tickets', but did you need to get one for a tortoise, he asked the conductor? The priceless reply: "cats is dogs, rabbits is dogs but tortoises is insects and travel free according."
I suspect this will amuse Anke, who thought my fictional religious order that classifies snakes as fish but lizards as rats was odd… ;)
I desperately want a tortoise… or a dog. OR! Both. I reason that I could set a jaguar on them to try to knock them into the river, and then they'd morph into pangolins. (Source for this unimpeachable logic.)